Contentious plans for up to 125 homes on the site of former council offices in Pontllanfraith have been backed for approval a second time, as Caerphilly County Borough Council insists a nearby park will be ‘unaffected.’
Councillors went against the advice of planners by rejecting the plans on the former Pontllanfraith House last month, amid concerns the development would encroach onto the Sir Harold Finch Memorial Park.
But as the application comes back before the council’s planning committee, planners have once again recommended the committee approves the plans.
A previous planning report said “it is regrettable that the development would encroach on the park” – but a new report seeks to “clarify matters” as it says this “inadvertently gave rise to some confusion” at the meeting.
“The boundary of the park is not defined in law but the authority considers the park to be the meadow areas to the north of the development site which comprise a local nature reserve and a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest),” it says.
“It is reconfirmed that the development does not encroach on either the local nature reserve or the SSSI so what the authority considers to be the Sir Harold Finch Memorial Park will be unaffected.”
But the report acknowledges around 13% of land, allocated for leisure in the council’s Local Development Plan, would be lost.
The ‘flagship’ scheme, a collaboration between the council and housing association Pobl, includes 83 affordable homes.
Recommending approval, the report says its contribution to providing homes “significantly outweighs the impact of the loss of this small area of leisure land”.
But the family of the former MP Sir Harold Finch said the development “will destroy the Sir Harold Finch Memorial Park in its present form”.
They have called on the planning committee to uphold its decision, saying the development is “not respecting the memory of our grandfather”.
“The planned development is adjacent to the local nature reserve,” they said.
“This is not the place for housing.
“The park which was named after our grandfather was given as an honour from the people of Islwyn.”
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The call comes after three Labour councillors asked the planning committee to overturn its decision.
A planning report adds that if the committee decides to refuse permission, a reason for refusal could be that the development would “result in the unjustified loss of a designed area of informal open space which is not regarded as being surplus to requirements and for which no comparable facility can be provided”.
The application will be decided on Wednesday, July 8.
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